When there is Christmas in Sweden we set the table with many small dishes. Some of them are mandatory in almost every family and others are swapped out from one year to another. Among the compulsory dishes there are herring, Janssons Temptation (a potato bake with anchovies) and Christmas ham with a crisp mustard topping.
It’s possible to buy your ham already cooked; even baked and sliced is an alternative these days. But we really like to go the extra mile here and do things from scratch because it yields so much more flavors and the result will be incredibly succulent. Besides, the pre cooked ones tend to develop unpleasant off-flavors. Yeah, we know… it takes up more time making the ham this way, but it’s worth it! Most of the time will be spent on simmering and meanwhile you could do something completely different, as long as you don’t leave the house. When the ham has got it’s time in the simmering water and cooled off enough to handle without burning yourself it’s time for the crispy mustard spread. We use a blend of two different mustards because that’s what we fancy; Dijon and a coarse sweet and spicy variety. But in this stage you simply just follow your own liking and use the kind of mustard you desire and got at hand.
Since there are too many other treats on the Christmas table I sadly enough only have room for a thin slice of ham that day. But by making it one or a few days in advance the ham will get all the attention it deserves. The best thing is to indulge the newly cooked and baked ham when still slightly warm on buttered Swedish Christmas Bread with an extra spread of mustard. And there is no need for dinner this day, because you will be full on ham sandwiches. The slightly warm ham that melts the butter, the spiced bread and the aromatic mustard just works so well together. It’s hard to describe, but this is a food moment which only happens once a year. The flavors and the Christmassy atmosphere truly make this into something worth waiting for. It’s magic! You probably have to experience this for yourself to truly understand the dignity of this ham sandwich moment.
2,5-3 kg cured ham
20 white pepper corns
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
4 tbsp. Mustard (we used 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard and 3 tbsp. of a coarse, sweet and spicy variety)
1 egg yolk
½ dl bread crumbs
Oven: 225 °C
Rinse the ham under cold water. Leave the mesh on or bind the ham up if it’s not already in a net. Place the ham in a big pot alongside with the pepper corns, bay leaves and thyme. Cover with water and let the ham simmer on low heat until the inner temperature reaches 70 °C, this will take about 2-3 hours. Let the ham cool for about an hour or until you can handle it without burning yourself. Take the mesh of and cut away most of the fatty cape just leaving a thin rind of fat.
Combine mustard and egg yolk. Dry the ham and dust with a thin layer of corn starch. Spread the mustard mixture over the ham and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the mustard topping is crisp and slightly golden.
And don’t forget that there is a lot of goodness in the cooking water, so reduce it by half and you will have a great broth the next time you’re making soup.